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10 things you need to know today: March 20, 2019

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Harold Maass
Mourners arrive at Memorial Park Cemetery for the first funeral ceremony of the Christchurch mosque attacks victim in Christchurch, New Zealand on March 20, 2019.
William West/Getty Images
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1.

Funerals begin for New Zealand mosque shooting victims

Hundreds of mourners gathered Wednesday for the first funerals for the 50 worshippers killed in last week's mass shootings at two mosques in New Zealand. The first ceremony was for Khalid Mustafa, 44, and Hamza Mustafa, 15 — a father and son who fled the civil war in Syria. Mustafa's wife, Salwa, told Radio New Zealand the family had been assured they were moving to "the safest country in the world, the most wonderful country you can go ... you will start a very wonderful life there ... But it wasn't." Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said it was "gutting" to know this happened to "a family [which] came here for safety and for refuge." Four other burials were scheduled for Wednesday, but most families are still waiting for investigators to release victims' bodies. [The Associated Press, The Week]

2.

Trump to name former Delta pilot to lead FAA

President Trump plans to nominate former airline pilot Steve Dickson to lead the Federal Aviation Administration, the White House said Tuesday. The FAA has been run by an acting administrator, Dan Elwell, for more than a year since the departure of Obama administration appointee Michael Huerta at the end of his five-year term in January 2018. Dickson's nomination comes as the FAA faces scrutiny over its certification of the Boeing 737 Max 8 jet after two of the planes crashed in less than five months, one in Indonesia and the other in Ethiopia. Both crashes killed everyone on board. Dickson will be the first FAA head in 30 years to come directly from a senior position at an airline. [Politico, The Wall Street Journal]

3.

Transportation secretary asks for audit of FAA approval of Boeing jets

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao on Tuesday called for her department's inspector general to audit the Federal Aviation Administration's certification of Boeing's 737 Max 8 plane, the new model involved in two deadly crashes in less than five months. "Safety is the top priority of the department, and all of us are saddened by the fatalities resulting from the recent accidents involving two Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft in Indonesia and Ethiopia," she wrote to Calvin L. Scovel III, her agency's internal watchdog. The FAA was slow to ground 737 Max jets, even after other countries barred the planes from their skies pending an investigation. The agency is also being questioned by Congress over its role in approving the jets as safe to fly. [The New York Times, The Week]

4.

Disney completes $71.3 billion 21st Century Fox deal

The Walt Disney Company formally closed its $71.3 billion purchase of 21st Century Fox assets early Wednesday, dramatically expanding what was already an entertainment giant. Disney now owns the core of Rupert Murdoch's former empire, including the 20th Century Fox movie and television studio, home of the X-Men, Avatar, and Simpsons franchises; Ice Age animation studio Blue Sky; Fox Searchlight Pictures; the FX and National Geographic channels; and Fox's interest in Hulu. "This is an extraordinary and historic moment for us — one that will create significant long-term value for our company and our shareholders," Disney CEO Bob Iger said in a statement. Disney bought Pixar in 2006 for $7.4 billion, Marvel Entertainment in 2010 for $4 billion, and Lucasfilm in 2012 for $4 billion. [The New York Times, Variety]

5.

Biden reportedly tells supporters he plans to run for president

Former Vice President Joe Biden has informed a small group of supporters he plans to run for president, The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday night. Biden reportedly told at least half a dozen backers he needs help raising several million dollars to match the online donations collected by some rival Democrats who have already joined the race for the party's nomination to challenge President Trump in 2020. Former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke raised more than $6 million in the first 24 hours after he entered the race Thursday. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont raised $5.9 million in his first day. Biden led a CNN poll released Tuesday with 28 percent support, followed by Sanders with 20 percent, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) with 12 percent, and O'Rourke with 11 percent. [The Wall Street Journal, CNN]

6.

Supreme Court hands Trump a victory on immigration policy

The Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled 5-4 that the U.S. can detain immigrants awaiting deportation any time after they have served criminal prison sentences. The judges were divided along ideological lines, with the conservative majority handing President Trump a major victory in his push to harden U.S. immigration policies. Justice Samuel Alito Jr., writing for the majority, said the decision merely followed the plain language of a federal immigration law permitting detention of immigrants facing deportation no matter how long ago or how minor their criminal offense. Justice Stephen Breyer, who dissented, said the ruling "runs the gravest risk of depriving those whom the government has detained of one of the oldest and most important of our constitutionally guaranteed freedoms." [The New York Times, Reuters]

7.

Search warrant shows Cohen investigation started in 2017

A search warrant that allowed the FBI to raid the office and hotel of President Trump's then-lawyer Michael Cohen in April 2018 was made public on Tuesday, revealing that Special Counsel Robert Mueller made Cohen a focus of the Russia investigation in the summer of 2017. Mueller initially probed whether Cohen, who later pleaded guilty to financial and campaign finance crimes, had acted as an unregistered foreign agent. The warrant sought to access Cohen's Gmail account. Google wouldn't release data stored on servers outside the U.S., but prosecutors won access to Cohen's emails after Trump signed a law giving U.S. law enforcement enhanced access to overseas servers. The warrant's pages on an "illegal campaign contribution scheme" were redacted, suggesting related investigations are ongoing. [NBC News, The Week]

8.

Trump meets Brazil's new pro-Trump leader

President Trump on Tuesday met at the White House with Brazil's new far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, a populist who has been called the "Trump of the Tropics." Bolsonaro ran on a pro-America, pro-Trump platform, and on Tuesday he made it clear he wants to strengthen military and economic ties with the United States. Trump lavished praise on Bolsonaro, saying he was doing "a very outstanding job" and that he had run "one of the incredible campaigns." Trump also said he was "honored" Bolsonaro had compared his own win to Trump's 2016 election, predicting he and Bolsonaro would have a "fantastic working relationship." [The Associated Press]

9.

FDA approves 1st drug to treat postpartum depression

The Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday approved the first postpartum depression drug, called brexanolone or Zulresso. It is a synthetic form of the hormone allopregnanolone, a progesterone derivative that increases during pregnancy and plummets after childbirth, possibly contributing to postpartum depression. The drug is administered intravenously to treat the sometimes life-threatening condition, which affects about one in nine new mothers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Due to risks such as excessive sedation, Zulresso will only be administered in a certified health care facility. The infusion takes 60 hours, and during a clinical trial, most participants showed improvement within 24 hours of receiving the drug, reporting they still felt the effects 30 days later. [NBC News, CNBC]

10.

MLB star Mike Trout to sign biggest sports contract ever

Baseball star Mike Trout is close to sealing a $430 million, 12-season deal with the Los Angeles Angels that would be the largest contract in professional sports history. The deal, which was first reported Tuesday by ESPN, lacks opt-out clauses, which means the superstar center fielder will probably spend the rest of his career with the team that drafted him out of high school. It's been a high-profile offseason for the MLB, which also signed massive free agent deals with Manny Machado and Bryce Harper. Trout's landmark deal reflects his strong record: The 27-year-old has already tallied 240 career home runs and collected two MVP awards. [ESPN, The Associated Press]